Young children can be remarkably resilient, and I was really surprised with how well my two young children (1 and 3) coped with jet lag on our recent holiday to the US. It’s not easy though, so here are my tips for helping young kids cope.
1. The most important thing to do is to adopt the new time as soon as you can, ideally starting with a schedule for meals and naps as soon as you are on the plane. If your flight is during the day then make sure that your child has plenty to eat, and if it is during the night try and encourage them to sleep if you can, and hold off the food.
2. When you have arrived at your destination, reinforce the usual routine. If it is bed time, try and encourage your child to eat something before they go to bed so that they don’t wake up hungry. If your child won’t eat then they probably will wake up – give them something small, eat it in a dimly lit room, then return them to sleep.
3. If your child wakes very early in the morning and obviously isn’t sleepy then get up with them. But then try to keep them awake as long as possible, preferably until bedtime or their usual naptime. Hopefully your new surroundings will be exciting enough to keep them going. Also, if they don’t seem hungry then try and delay breakfast until the normal time.
4. During the day, make sure that you get outside and enjoy as much daylight as you can. Stay active and move about. If your child still sleeps during the day then let them nap, but wake them after their usual amount of sleep rather than letting them wake naturally, otherwise they may not feel like going to bed at bedtime!
5. Continue to make sure that they have plenty to eat during the day. This will all be more difficult for younger babies that are still feeding and napping regularly, and so you will need to brace yourself for a few disturbed nights as they sort themselves out. But of course, you will be suffering from jet lag yourself anyway, so it won’t be as bad as you might think!
You might like our tips for keeping kids entertained on a flight.